Darfur dictator bars UN peacekeepers
|The Daily Telegraph, 22 Juin 2006|
Sudan\'s military dictator ruled out the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the war-torn region of Darfur yesterday, escalating his war of words with western governments.
President Omar al-Bashir blamed \"Jewish organisations\" for mobilising international pressure on Sudan and denounced any UN force as a plot to \"re-colonise\" his country. \"I swear that there will not be any international military intervention in Darfur as long as I am in power,\" he told a meeting of the ruling National Congress Party, according to Sudan\'s official press.
Later Mr Bashir told a press conference in Khartoum that \"Jews\" were behind rallies held in America in favour of sending peacekeepers to Darfur. \"If we return to the [organisations behind the] last demonstrations in the United State we find that they are all Jewish,\" he said.
Mr Bashir, who seized power in the predominantly Muslim state in a 1989 coup and hosted Osama bin Laden for five years in the 1990s, added that any UN troops would be \"colonial forces\".
Three years of civil war in Darfur have forced at least two million people to flee their homes for squalid refugee camps.
Mr Bashir\'s Arab-dominated regime responded to a rebellion among black African tribes by arming the notorious \"Janjaweed\" militia.
These mounted gunmen were given carte blanche to attack and pillage tribes viewed as enemies of the regime.
Violence, starvation and disease have claimed up to 300,000 lives and vast areas of Darfur have become depopulated wastelands.
Western governments, supported by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, say that only a large outside force with a robust mandate can protect civilians and halt the killing.
They favour sending between 12,000 and 20,000 UN troops to Darfur.
Last month, Khartoum signed a peace agreement with one faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
His regime has also allowed a UN \"assessment mission\" to visit Darfur and begin planning for the arrival of peacekeeping troops.
But Mr Bashir\'s latest comments reverse that conciliatory stance.
Two terrorist groups, styling themselves the \"Jihad Brigade\" and the \"Darfur Blood Organisation\", have already emerged in Darfur, vowing to fight any UN deployment.
UN officials say that Pakistanis have recently arrived in Darfur and are believed to lead the two new groups. But their strength is probably no more than a few score.